Just over 3 years since taking those first steps into the Doctor´s, (25.09.17), to admit that I had a problem with alcohol and ask for help, I find myself sober, and trying to piece together my life and personality, whilst giving my brain some TLC and the much-needed freedom from the shackles of substance abuse. Life after Strattera has not been easy but each day that passes I feel more positive and closer to finding the inner peace that I have spent my life searching for.
Life After Strattera
Although I have been free of alcohol for over 3 years, I was never truly liberated as I passed through different stages of addiction, medication (Strattera / Atomoxetine), and addiction recovery. Click here to read about how Strattera Changed My Life
As I wrote in a previous article, Overcoming Addiction: Your Deceptive Brain, our brains will try anything they can to replace the fix that they once had. It is a highly problematic situation because any substance or activity, no matter how mundane or innocent it may seem, can quickly turn into an addiction or an obsession.
I came to realise that the fear and inability to be sober and alone with our thoughts is the driving force behind the addictive, escapist behaviour that so many of us exhibit.
When was the last time you spent a week without any mind altering substance?
The unbalanced levels of neurotransmitters in the brain such as Dopamine and Serotonin due to alcohol, drugs, poor diet, lack of sleep, stress, trauma, and repressed emotions or memories cause us to be in altered states of consciousness and this affects our mood and view on life.
Searching For Comfort And Pleasure
After quitting drinking, I passed through a heavy nicotine addiction – smoking shisha for about 2 hours a day for a year, a caffeine addiction, periods of MDMA and Ketamine use, an addiction to work, exercise, Tinder, and just about anything to distract myself from being sober.
This all culminated in the decision to leave Barcelona and head to Brazil with a one-way ticket (click here to check a short documentary that I made in the Amazon Rainforest).
I thought that I could literally run away from my problems by leaving my life behind. At the time I thought I would never come back but of course, you cannot run forever and eventually I was forced back into reality and back to a life that hadn´t changed in my absence.
Learning To Accept Your True Self
It has taken me the good part of 3 years to learn to recognise and accept this escapist behaviour, and try to sit down with myself and really be me with no substance or distractions. This hasn´t been a particularly pleasant process, as there is no hiding from intrusive thoughts or past mistakes.
Over the summer I tried to push this to the extreme by spending entire days fasting in silence. I wanted to really experience this inner silence and be alone with myself, whilst also resisting the urge to talk, or write.
To people around me it seemed like a stupid exercise but in a few short days I feel that I really learned to appreciate silence and began to learn to control the urge to constantly blurt things out.
I came to realise that we learn far more when we stay silent and observe than when we incessantly talk.
In a desperate attempt to experience being my true self, I took what I believed to be the appropriate measures to help myself flush out the innate need inside me for stimulation. I tried to remove as many external pleasures from my life as I could:
Alchohol, Medication, Drugs, Caffeine, Sugar, Animal products, Gluten, Excercise.
I thought that this would just magically solve all of my problems but after coming off my medication Strattera / Atomoxetine, I quickly entered into a deep depression.
Removing all of the things from my life which gave me pleasure was very difficult and just pushed me further down but I felt that it was necessary to try and “reset” my brain. Whether or not this is the best way to handle it I am not sure. I have always been a person to take drastic measures to try and break habits and learn new things.
My logic was that if I could fight through the depression with as little external stimuli as possible then I would reset my base level of happiness. If I could learn to use natural tools such as breathing and meditation to help control my mood and productivity then I would be able to free myself from the need for an addiction or distraction.
I came to realise that we should be able to find happiness and gratitude in all aspects of life, but that it just takes a bit (or a lot) of practice. Click here to read about How to Become Grateful.
Hallucinations From Meditation
Once I found out that we can reach levels of intense euphoria, hallucinations, and visions just from breathwork and meditation I turned my attention to learning this art. Euphoria and hallucinations are the goal of most drug users, so learning that this was possible using our own physiology made me a very happy man.
I have not yet had any crazy experiences but I am not losing sight of the goal. Neither am I very advanced at meditation or breath work but it is a work in progress. Just like going to the gym to train our muscles, we must train our brain to change frequency and enter new levels of relaxation, creativity and love.
To try and maintain sanity I have been trying to meditate as frequently as possible. I have also been trialling different methods of breathwork and have recently started a self-hypnosis course to learn how to enter into states of trance and either relax, or program new positive thoughts into the brain.
One of the most inspirational people that I follow is Wim Hof – the “Ice man”. Check out this video below where he introduces his breathwork.
There is a wealth of resources out there and I think the key is finding what works best for you. It is important to enter any new practice with an open mind and no expectations. Consistency is vital and incorporating any new practice into your routine takes time and dedication.
Strattera / Atomoxetine has been an amazing help in my life and I am so grateful to have experienced its effects. Life after Strattera is a whole new experience but it is a welcome challenge.
Looking for Free and Confidential Support?
Mad Millennials is a UK based peer support network offering free and confidential sessions with trained volunteers. The sessions are very informal and loosely follow a theme each month – which you can find on the Instagram pages. It is an opportunity for people to talk with other people who are often experiencing similar issues and talk openly in a non-judgemental way. There is no obligation to participate or even talk if you don´t want to.
If you follow the link below you will see a page with more information and if you click on MMM Peer support groups you will be able to contact any of the groups and join a session. If you are unsure which group to join then send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org
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